Georgia declared an end to the drought that has gripped much of the state since late 2007, and area utility officials eased outdoor watering restrictions today.
"This drought has ended," Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch said. "Our water supplies are flush. Our rivers and streams have rebounded."
At a meeting of the State Drought Response Committee, Ms. Couch said that Georgia is moving to non-drought water rules. Homeowners can water their lawns three days a week, based on whether they have an odd or even street addresses. The state is suggesting that the watering not take place between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
In Richmond and Columbia counties, residents will still have to observe the odd-even restrictions but will be able to water at any hour of the day.
We are still to observe only three days a week of watering for residents, but the hour restrictions would cease, Columbia County Water Utility Director William Clayton said.
The Augusta Utilities Department said in a news release that the state's action lifts restrictions on hours, but it urged residents to avoid watering in the heat of the day.
"We would like to remind our customers that outdoor watering in the middle of the day is a less efficient use of water due to the more rapid evaporation rate," the statement said.
Residents in both counties with even-ending addresses are allowed to water their lawns at any time on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Residents with odd-ending addresses are allowed to water on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
Mr. Clayton said the latest drought has been the most severe he has seen in his 30 years of service to the county.
This will be great news for a lot of people, he said. People put a lot of work into their lawns, so its a burden when we dont get any rainfall.
Ms. Couch said that Georgians need to remain vigilant about water conservation to prevent a repeat of the parched conditions.
Gov. Sonny Perdue also urged Georgians to remain vigilant about water conservation to prevent a repeat of the parched conditions.
We have become more educated about water conservation, and have taken significant steps towards ensuring a long term solution, Mr. Perdue said. I believe Georgians will continue to use our water resources wisely under this new outdoor watering schedule.
Mr. Perdue made headlines in November 2007, when with the states reservoirs drying up, he led a prayer service at the state Capitol for rain.
Georgia Conservancy President Pierre Howard said he remains concerned that the state has not done enough to encourage long-term water conservation efforts and could end up back in a dire drought conditions without changes.
"I don't feel like Georgia has been aggressive enough," the former Democratic lieutenant governor said.
"We need to start acting like the grown up state that we are."